Voiro : It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

Boston Marathon
Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

“It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon”, they said.

While it’s a *highly* overused adage, it is one that tends to ring very true, especially in the most trying of times. It has reminded me on several occasions to focus on the horizon, to not sweat the small stuff but also not veer off track when something goes extraordinarily well. But what we’ve realized over the last few years running Voiro is that it’s not just any marathon – it’s Boston. It’s Boston every single day. We put in months of effort, put something out into the world, close that big game-changing sale, and then we wake up the next day and it’s Boston again. 

You know what else they say? “It might be a marathon, but the ones in front are sprinting it”.

2020 put a very different spin on this cycle, despite having faced it ever since we began Voiro. We all know 2020 got really real really fast (I know, I just read that out loud myself). For all of us. 

The first few months felt weird. They felt odd but new. Working remotely, wearing shorts, zero commute time, no expenses (or so I thought)! And the rapid normalization of rising pandemic statistics that went from shocking to being just that – statistics. But at some point, the novelty and benefits of working remotely started to fade because we realized that (a) it wasn’t actually fun or even easy and (b) this wasn’t  remote work. Anshumani Ruddra, a product leader whose writing our team follows keenly, recently wrote about the fact that the traditional definition of remote work still includes a social component which we cannot do without. Work started to expand with time, and not everyone has friendly, private and secluded work environments at home. And those who did realized they didn’t actually like working in isolation. They yearned for a bustling office and missed that colleague two desks down blaring embarrassing music that spilled out through their headphones.

At some point in 2020, it hit us that this was spiralling into a crisis of mental wellness. Of happiness. Of drive. This was happening across the company, and this topic started taking center stage in every one of our founder huddles, with the added realization that everyone had to carry all this on their backs and run Boston again the next day. Because startups are about that – be irrational, chase the impossible, walk into every project and every milestone with the hard requirement that someone in the room has to pull a miracle out of the bag, all while possibly fighting a battle that nobody in the room could easily see, especially on Zoom or Google Meet.

At some point in 2020, we looked around the room and realized we were out of our depth.

It so happened that I was on twitter one weekend and the guys from Setu were holding a public webinar on mental wellness, and it was going to begin in about 2 minutes. Hello, Serendipity!

We saw another company talking about the same battles and were quickly introduced to their mental wellness partner, Kaha Mind. We didn’t think twice. We’ve had Kaha Mind on board ever since and it’s a decision that has helped our entire organization. Regular workshops, content, a dedicated slack channel, de-stigmatization of mental health, and expert therapy for anyone who needs it at any time. One thing that helped is our founding team walked the talk, which was natural given Kavita’s focus right from year 1 on a conscious effort to build a positive and fun culture, and on our team’s wellness, both physical as well as mental. “If there’s no positive culture and no team, there’s no company”, she’s always said. I love that we were able to bring that back in focus.

As we enter 2021, we’re making a conscious effort to understand that the job is not done. It never is. We will face new challenges, our team is growing. We now have a temporary office called “Chief Fun Officer’‘, where folks rotate in and out of this role once a month, and plan Friday events – everything from game night to quizzes to treasure hunts, to fun facts about our team for the new folks. We’re experimenting with new ideas constantly, finding ones that stick and holding on to them for however long they do. One big benefit we’ve had is external folks who have been more than happy to help, like Atul Mathew, a dear friend of ours, who was kind enough to custom create and host a quiz for our team.

We’re not entirely sure what challenges 2021 will throw at us, but we’re doing two things – we won’t stop talking about mental wellness, and our focus is on having the right culture, every step of the way. 

Tags: , , , , ,